When we think of Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, we automatically associate her with being a strong, beautiful, and dynamic woman, and of course, a talented actor.
But in an interview with French Magazine Madame Figaro a few years ago, Jolie opened up about how she had lost some of her self-identity when she separated from actor Brad Pitt.
“I didn’t recognize myself anymore,” she explained of the time when her “relationship with Brad was coming to an end.”
“I had lost myself a bit,” she added.
Jolie also expressed that during the separation, she felt “smaller, almost insignificant, even if it wasn’t necessarily obvious.”
Many women can relate to Jolie: they find that they lose themselves when they’re in a relationship. Their self-esteem falls and like Jolie, they don’t recognize themselves.
Does this sound familiar?
Of course, partners of any gender can feel low-self esteem in relationships, but here are seven signs a woman has a low self-concept in hers.
1) She conforms to her partner’s pursuits and abandons her own
I’m sure we all know women who had a myriad of interests when they were single, but as soon as they became immersed in a relationship they slowly stopped doing all the things that had once inspired them.
“Insecure women in relationships tend to abandon their own lives to conform to their partner’s life,” says Rachel Pace from Marriage.com. “It may be subtle at first, but eventually, you will see she no longer hangs out with her friends, goes to her gym, or indulges in all the activities that attracted [her partner] in the first place.”
It’s vital to know that a significant other should add to our life, not take away from it. Of course, some things—such as hanging out with our girlfriends, for example—can dwindle down a bit when we’re in a relationship. Things can get busier. Such is life.
But if you’re cutting off friends and pursuits you’re passionate about and devoting all your time and energy to your significant other, you may very well be abandoning a big part of yourself.
2) She doesn’t have a whole lot of self-confidence
Women who don’t have a healthy dose of self confidence to begin with can be especially prone to a lack of it once they embark upon a relationship.
This can include feelings of self-doubt. You automatically agree and go along with your partner’s decisions because you don’t trust your own judgment. This can look like them taking care of all the finances and financial decisions, for example.
Conversely, low self-confidence can look like being unable to take constructive criticism very well—and even becoming highly defensive. A woman might take feedback from her partner as a personal attack. This can look like:
Partner: Can you remember to contribute your half of what we agreed on for the retirement fund, please? The deadline is coming up this week and you said you would do it yesterday.
Woman: I don’t need to be reminded as if I’m a child, you know. I’ll get to it when I get to it.
All of the above stem from feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-love.
It is highly recommended to work on your own self-concept—this includes self-esteem and self-worth—before getting into a relationship.
This way, you’ll bring your best self to the partnership right from the onset. Of course, this doesn’t mean there won’t be any conflict or challenging times as a couple, but this way you’ll be better prepared to take on those challenges with self-awareness.
3) She can get clingy
We’ve all felt this way to a certain degree in relationships. This can look like texting your partner constantly because they haven’t responded.
“The term ‘clingy’ has undeniable negative undertones as it’s often used to describe a partner who is perceived as overly dependent, jealous, obsessive, and suffocating,” says the team at the Attachment Project.
Even though the word has a bad rap, it actually comes from a place of insecurity and the desire to love and be loved.
That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to be clingy, either. It can be understandable if say, a woman is going through a particularly challenging phase of life, and is grieving the loss of a parent or she unexpectedly lost her job.
She may feel clingy because she is feeling especially vulnerable and a loving partner will usually understand this.
But if being clingy is the norm, then, again, self-concept is something that needs to be worked on.
It is worth addressing any unmet needs. Create your own boundaries and stick to them. Also, focus on yourself: what are you passionate about? Find out and pursue that.
4) She’s a people-pleaser
When a woman doesn’t value her own needs and desires, she might engage in people-pleasing behavior, says Kendra Cherry MSEd, from VeryWellMind.
“Due to a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem people-pleasers have a need for external validation, and they may feel that doing things for others will lead to approval and acceptance,” she says.
For a woman in a relationship, this might look like anything from wearing her hair how her partner likes it even though she’s not crazy about the look herself—to hanging out with a significant other’s friends and family almost exclusively.
She doesn’t consider her own feelings about the matter, or if she does, she doesn’t see her opinion as valuable as her partner’s.
5) She doesn’t discuss her own needs
A woman who has low self-esteem might find it difficult to ask her partner for help.
She may worry about inconveniencing her significant other or burdening them with her problems, says the team at PeacefulMind.
Say her car breaks down and she has to call a tow truck to have it towed to the mechanic. Instead of calling her partner for a ride home when she knows they aren’t at work, she’ll call a cab. She doesn’t want to inconvenience him in any way.
Last month, I took my mom to a medical clinic a couple of cities away to get a colonoscopy. As many know, the person who gets the procedure is sedated so they need to bring someone with them to drive them home afterwards.
In the waiting room, I overheard the receptionist talking to a woman about to get the procedure. The woman came in by herself and the receptionist asked if she would have a ride home afterwards. The woman’s response: “My husband is supposed to come. I hope he does, but he isn’t very reliable.”
I remember exchanging a startled glance with my mom.
Moral of the story: we all have a right to rely on our partners—particularly in times of need. Otherwise, what’s the point of being in a relationship to begin with?
6) She easily gets envious
A woman with low self-esteem in a relationship need not be timid and passive.
A low self-concept can come up in other ways such as being jealous of a partner’s ex-spouse, for instance. Or the people her partner works with.
Jealousy also need not be tied to anything sexual.
Say a woman’s husband mentions how his sister got a promotion, for example. The woman might feel envious over this. While this can be a natural feeling, it can be an issue if anytime the sister is mentioned, the woman always feels a familiar pang of jealousy.
The woman might think: His sister always gets things easily. I always have to work twice as hard to have anything good happen to me, and even that’s nowhere near her good fortune.
It might also make her feel like she isn’t good enough for her partner and their family.
Low self-esteem and unhappiness is often linked to jealousy, says a research paper on The relationship between low self-esteem, happiness and jealousy in romantic relationships.
“Most people with low self-esteem feel they don’t measure up to the standards some people meet, so they act out in a jealous way as they feel they aren’t good enough for the person they are with.”
It’s worth confronting any feelings of jealousy and figure out where they are coming from. “If you get that jealous twinge, ask yourself what lies at the root of it,” says Sarah Swenson, LMHC. “Then take steps to change what you don’t like in order to get what you don’t like in order to get what you want. Examining your jealous feelings can give you insight on where they come from.”
7) She doesn’t trust her partner
It’s one thing to have a reason not to trust a partner, such as infidelity.
But if your distrust is based more so on your own insecurity, then a low self-esteem could be the issue.
If you trust your partner but have doubts because of past relationship experiences, then it’s important not to project these insecurities onto them.
“Rather than admitting or dealing with certain unwanted feelings, you may deflect these feelings onto someone else as a style of coping with them, say Lia Avellino, LCSW and Sidney Wingfield from Well and Good. “The idea: If you can effectively make someone else the cause or source of your distress, you can psychologically remove yourself from having to deal with the underlying emotion.”
Get to know your insecurities by becoming aware of strong reactions and behavior patterns, “Adopt an approach of curiosity not judgment.”
Also, talk to your partner about your insecurities and keep the lines of communication open about them. This can go a long way to building trust.